Latest Drought Outlook for 2021


Around this time of year, as we look ahead to the summer months, we always like to take a closer look at drought conditions in the U.S., as it can impact just about every area of agriculture. Here’s an overview of current drought conditions across the country and what to anticipate over the next few months.

Current Drought Conditions

As of May 18, 2021, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows that areas of California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota are experiencing Extreme or Exceptional Drought intensity.

In California specifically,  the water level in Lake Tahoe is 2.5 feet lower than it was at this time last year. Throughout the affected areas of the west, there are reports of livestock mortality as well as dry stock ponds, forcing farmers to haul water to replenish them.

In the Dakotas, there are reports of poor quality in livestock water sources and many farmers have had to plant in dry soils to this point of the year. There’s also an increased fire risk in North Dakota, as more than 100,000 acres have burned this year as a result of more than 1,000 fires.

How Do These Conditions Compare to Last Year?

Using the U.S. Drought Monitor Comparison Slider, we can see that compared to May 18, 2020, drought conditions are much more severe today. Last year, there were only a few spots of Extreme Drought conditions, with the majority of the country experiencing normal or abnormally dry conditions.

Overall drought levels are measured using the Drought Severity and Coverage Index (DSCI). The higher the number, the worse the drought conditions. Currently, the DSCI stands at 167, compared to 63 at this time last year.

However, there is a reason for hope. Data shows that drought conditions seem to be getting better incrementally over the past few weeks. The DSCI has dropped down from where it stood on April 27 at 180.

What to Expect in the Coming Months

Unfortunately, experts believe we won’t see significant signs of improvement during the summer, as drought conditions are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist talked more about the causes to ABC News, saying, “California’s drought has recently gone from bad to worse. This striking increase in drought severity has been driven by several factors, including extremely low rainfall, warmer than typical historical temperatures, and unusually rapid snowmelt in mountain areas.”

The official start of hurricane season that’s just around the corner brings a new set of potential problems into the equation. NOAA is predicting an above-normal season in the Atlantic, which could result in too-wet conditions on the East Coast in addition to the dangerously dry conditions on the West Coast.


We’ll continue to monitor the latest weather updates and how they impact the agriculture industry and report back here.